Sex, Politics, and the Single Latina – The Feminist Wire

Sex, Politics, and the Single Latina

By Melissa Blanco Borelli

I like to have sex, and lots of it.

The kind of back arching, toe curling sex that is non-missionary and non-procreative. Yes, exactly the kind that the conservative cohort in the U.S. wants to limit, police, and vilify. I realize that by my admission of such sexual behavior, I am perhaps feeding into the stereotype of the hypersexual Latina, the ravenous, curvaceous she-wolf that cannot get enough of phallic pleasure and seeks to conquer men with a sly glance, a swerve of the hip, and the promise of a happy ending.

But mine is a purposeful rendering of that stereotype. First, it commands attention (c’mon, I know it did). Second, it demonstrates how talking about female sexual desire and its fulfilment may make certain people uncomfortable.  And last, it demonstrates how writing about sex and engaging with the practice(s) of it enables an understanding of the ways in which its silencing have both affected and shaped how we think about it. As French philosopher Michel Foucault asked in his tome The History of Sexuality, “When did we get so repressed?” Rather than recite Western history’s long and exhausting battle with sexuality, I want to address why it is important now more than ever for women, especially Latinas, to speak about sex, sexuality, and pleasure.

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health reports that over half of Latinas ages 18 to 34 have said they go without birth control because of the high cost. My college professor friends tell me about some of their Latina students who deal with unplanned pregnancies because they have no access to contraception, come from traditional Latino families where female sexuality is not discussed, and have boyfriends who do not bother to wear condoms as a sign of their macho entitlement. Many Latina women’s health organizations have praised President Obama for his measure to provide more accessible and affordable contraception. Meanwhile, the ongoing Christian conservative culture wars only detract attention from more pressing matters, such as the United States’ shrinking middle class, the depletion of the world’s natural resources, and the global economic crisis to name a few.

The false premise, that if contraception becomes more readily available non-procreative sexual activity will automatically increase, is ridiculous. It is just as ridiculous as the Catholic Church assuming that if we allow gay marriage, more people will become gay and this will prove detrimental to our species’ existence (there are 7 billion of us, how many more people can this Earth hold?). Perhaps I have been distracted by all of this sex I like to have, but seriously, what is so wrong with more non-procreative sex? And even more importantly, what is wrong with open and intelligent discussions about human sexuality? Surely if we speak about it in educative and socially constructive ways, centuries of taboos may not stand up as “erectly” as they currently do.

Images of violence (much of it directed towards women) come at us constantly by the corporate media. The increasing pornification of popular culture renders women’s bodies as mere objects to lust after, consume, and dismiss.   What kind of value system has consumer capitalism created that allows for such images to circulate while politicians attempt to silence women’s desires, choices, and self-expression? In such a limited, patriarchal understanding of the world, it should come as no surprise that conservative politicians are willing to assign subject status—personhood—to a corporation over a woman.

Fortunately, as free agents, women enjoy inalienable rights to express themselves in multiple ways, particularly by having the freedom to have sex whenever and with whomever we please.  Yet, within societies where the ideological structure has historically justified the submission and policing of women and their bodies, the threat of a thinking, doing, and dare I say fornicating-for-pleasure woman is too much to bear. Sandra Fluke merely spoke of the difficulty she and other women students at Georgetown University face when trying to get access to contraception, and immediately she was slandered by a man, who decided to make and publicize a moral judgment about her. I refuse to use his name or the words he called her because the more we put into discourse these outdated understandings of women’s sexual behaviors and the ignorant pundits who circulate them, the more we detract from productive conversations we could be having about human sexuality.

My favorite, current such intervention comes from Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá’s book Sex at Dawn, which examines the history of human sexuality and argues that we are not as monogamous as religion, culture, or even science would have us believe. I am also interested in The Desire Project, a website dedicated to women expressing what they want. The site includes video footage of women of all ages and colors speaking about sex; refreshing confessions, to say the least. This election year makes it a political and social imperative to engage in conversations about women’s sexuality in all of its variations.

Time Magazine predicts Latino voters will have a significant impact on this year’s elections. So I urge women, especially Latinas, to have conversations and really engage with the significance of making sexuality an important issue. The more we own the discussions about it, the more we can have power over what gets said. It is time we put these unproductive stigmas attached to women’s sexuality (pardon the pun) to bed. In the meantime, this single Latina who has just spent some time writing about sex will continue to find opportunities to enjoy it.


Melissa Blanco Borelli, PhD, is a scholar, dancer, feminist cultural critic, and writer based in the UK where she is Lecturer in Dance Studies at the University of Surrey. Her research interests include gender, race, and popular dance in film, television, and music videos. She is the editor of the forthcoming anthology The Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen, and is completing another book on the mixed-race woman and social dance in Cuba. You can follow her on twitter @MelissaBlancoB or